Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. [Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)]
While pondering an important decision, I realized I was trying to figure it out on my own rather than taking it to God. Relying on my own perception and trusting in my wisdom, however, is what got me into my dilemma in the first place. Based on some of the truly stupid choices I’ve made when leaning on my own understanding, it’s only through God’s grace that my life is not a total disaster.
It all started with Adam and Eve who, after listening to the serpent’s advice, leaned on their own understanding of God’s prohibition about that one tree. Doubting God’s goodness, they thought the fruit would make them as wise as God and foolishly took those bites rather than check with Him. Not trusting God’s promise of descendants to Abraham, Sarah looked to her own solution and gave Hagar to her husband. What part of “Don’t look back or stop anywhere!” did Lot’s wife fail to understand when she looked back at Sodom? It was leaning on their own understanding that made Aaron mold a golden calf and sacrifice burnt offerings to it or Saul spare Agag and take the best of the sheep, goats, cattle, and plunder from the Amalekites. There were grievous consequences to all those decisions to lean on themselves rather than God!
Consider the Israelites who made it through the wilderness from Egypt to Canaan by following God’s plan. Before crossing the Jordan, Moses sent twelve scouts on a reconnaissance mission to determine the lay of the land and the region’s agriculture. They weren’t supposed to assess the people or determine if they would enter Canaan—that was a given because God promised Israel both the land and their victory over its residents. But, when the scouts returned with reports of giants, the Israelites leaned on their own understanding rather than trusting God—an error that cost them forty more wilderness years
Although Israel’s strength was in the power of their God, David’s logic told him a nation’s strength lay in the size of its army. Ignoring the advice of Joab, he trusted his reasoning more than God and took a census of all who could “handle a sword.” As a result of his foolishness, Israel suffered a plague and 70,000 people died. Although leaning on our own understanding doesn’t necessarily result in tragedy, it frequently does.
When faced with a decision, like David, we consult advisors and friends, or turn to that font of information and misinformation—the Internet. Unfortunately, our human understanding is pitifully limited and our motives often suspect. Writing and debate classes taught me that a case can be made for any stand on an issue—whether it’s the right stand is an entirely different matter! It’s human nature to search deepest for information and advisors supporting our desires and to disregard as faulty anything that doesn’t support our position. Rehoboam did just that when he followed the advice of his greedy friends rather than Mosaic law and the godly advice of his father’s advisors. When he leaned on his own understanding, the kingdom divided.
We see just a portion of what is right in front of us but, in just one glance, God sees the whole picture—the past, present, and future. While our flawed understanding of God and His plan isn’t a requirement for obedience to Him, our trust is! The first part of today’s verse tells us to trust in the Lord—which is what Adam, Eve, and the rest should have done! Rather than lean on our own understanding or that of other flawed humans, we must turn to the true giver of wisdom—God—and His book of wisdom—the Bible.
“I wish I knew what to do!” we exclaim. While I can’t tell anyone what to do, I can tell everyone what not to do—don’t lean on your own understanding!
This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength. [1 Corinthians 1:25 (NLT)]
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